New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a the U.S. first edition, first printing of Churchill's extremely popular autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. This is a very good copy in the scarce first printing dust jacket. Published in England as My Early Life, this is one of the few Churchill first editions for which the U.S. edition bears a different title than the British. Interestingly, A Roving Commission was the title proposed by Churchill himself and favored by his American publisher.
One can hardly ask for more adventurous content. These were momentous and formative years for Churchill, including his time as a war correspondent and cavalry officer in theatres as varied as Cuba, northwest India, and sub-Saharan and southern Africa. This time contained a wide range of experiences in Churchill’s life. Not only was he developing as an author, publishing his first books, and making his first lecture tour of North America, but this was also the time of his capture and daring escape during the Boer War, which made him a celebrity and helped launch his political career. Churchill would take his seat in Parliament only weeks after the end of Queen Victoria's reign.
A Roving Commission remains one of the most popular and widely read of all Churchill's books. And for good reason, as the work certainly ranks among the most charming and accessible of his many books. An original 1930 review likened it to a "beaker of Champagne." That effervescent charm endures; a more recent writer called it "a racy, humorous, self-deprecating classic of autobiography." To be sure, Churchill takes some liberties with facts and perhaps unduly lightens or over-simplifies certain events, but this is eminently forgivable and in keeping with the wit, pace, and engaging style that characterizes the book. The book sold very well at the time and has seen a great many editions since, many of them collectible in their own right, but of course a premium attaches to first editions, both British and U.S.
Jacketed copies of the U.S. first edition are scarce. Even decent unjacketed copies are unusual. The red-orange cloth binding proved highly susceptible to fading and soiling and the fragile dust jacket proved highly vulnerable to wear and severe fading of the orange color, particularly on the jacket spine. This first printing copy (confirmed by the Scribner’s “A” on the copyright page) features a square and tight binding with sharp corners, bright gilt, only light wear to extremities and, most notably, a bright, unfaded spine with only trivial sunning to the spine ends corresponding to minor dust jacket losses. The contents are clean with no spotting and no previous ownership marks. Some residue and scarring on the front pastedown indicates removal of a bookplate and there is a two-inch cosmetic split to the paper at the inner front hinge that affects neither the mull beneath nor overall binding integrity.
The first printing dust jacket has a neatly price-clipped front flap, loss to the spine ends to a maximum depth of .375 inch, and a 1.5 x .5 triangular loss at the upper front face. The spine ends and upper front face loss are reinforced on the jacket verso. As with most surviving jacketed copies, the spine is significantly faded, though the title, author, and publisher print remains clear. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover.
Reference: Cohen A91.2.a, Woods/ICS A37(b.1), Langworth p. 134. Item #004335